Cold Damaged Palm Tree Care

I get a lot of emails from palm tree owners, asking for advice on how to save cold-damaged palm trees. In my previous article, called Palm Tree Cold Protection, I’ve outlined few steps you can take to protect your palm trees before freezing temperatures are reached. Today, I will tell you, what you need do to save your cold-damaged palms.

The most important and the most vulnerable part of the palm tree is the bud. Bud is where new leaves emerge. If the bud tissue of the palm has NOT been severely damaged, the palm should recover and start producing new leaves during the following summer. New emerging leaves might be deformed, partially brown or have other abnormalities. It might take from 6 months to one year from the freeze for the palm tree to recover. If the bud tissue has been severely damaged, the palm might not survive.

Step 1: Determine level of injury

First, you need to determine the level of injury. To see how extensive the damage is, gently pull newly emerging spear. Sometimes, new spear is very loose and pulls out easily. Check to see if the bud is still alive. If it is green, the palm tree can be saved.

Step 2: Pruning

Next, prune only dead branches and remove all the dying leaves around the bud, so it can dry out. Don’t cut back leaves with brown tips, since palms still extracts nutrients for new leaves from dying fronds. Be careful not to over-prune. The more green leaves you remove, the less food the palm can produce. Pruning too many leaves will only add to the stress.

Step 3: Liquid Copper

Now, we need to protect the palm from bacterial and fungi attack. Spray the palm with liquid Copper Fungicide. After the stress from the freeze, palm trees become more vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. Copper Fungicide has a unique formula that helps fight both. It should be applied no more than twice, 10 days between each application. Drench the bud of the palm with liquid copper using the force of the spray to clean it. This should reduce the chances of bud rot due to microorganisms.

Applying Copper Fungicide around the base of the palm will suppress development of the root diseases. One of the products I found to be very effective is Bonide Products Copper Fungicide. It works very well against fungi and bacterial.  Since it’s made from natural product you can use it for organic gardening.

Step 4: Fertilizing

Few words about fertilizing. Do NOT fertilize your palm trees right away, wait until late summer or fall. Most people start fertilizing as soon as they see brown leaves. Fertilizer is NOT plant food. Despite it saying “Palm Food” or “Plant Food” on the labels, fertilizer is a mixture of nutrients used to make soil more fertile and promote plant growth. Plants produce their own food, using water, carbon dioxide and solar energy. Think of the fertilizers as vitamin supplements. You can’t make a sick, diseased, malnourished person healthy with vitamins. When you start fertilizing your sick palm tree, you are asking it to start growing, which creates even more stress on the poor tree. Wait till late summer or spring and apply slow release fertilizer. For more fertilizing tips read my Fertilizing Palm Trees article.

Step 5:  Freeze Protection Spray

If there are more freezing days coming your way and you worry about palm trees getting even more damage, protect it by spraying it with Freeze Pruf. This amazing water-based, eco-safe spray enhances the plant’s natural mechanisms to resist freeze damage, shielding it from ice crystal damage, and increasing its ability to survive cold temperatures by reducing the freezing point of water inside the tissues of the plant.

It actually improves healthy plants’ natural cold tolerance by approximately 2° to 9° F. It’s like moving your temperature zone 200 miles south! The biodegradable formula is designed to resist washing away by rain or snow and application lasts up to 4 weeks with normal precipitation. Freeze Pruf is very easy to apply and is safe for kids and pets.

To save cold-damaged palm tree you need to have a lot of patience. Don’t give up and remember that sometimes the damage is so severe, there is nothing you can do. By the end of spring you will have an idea weather you need to replace your palm.

If you don’t live in the warm climate and still want to have beautiful palm trees in you backyard, you would love this book “Betrock’s Cold Hardy Palms.” It has comprehensive profiles for 82 palm species capable of growing in climates colder than USDA Hardiness Zone 10, including 286 color photographs.

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